Hands clapping, shining faces, a buzz in the air.
It’s a typical day at Network Human Services, but the stories behind the people living there and running the organization are anything but ordinary.
“At Network Incorporated, we serve people with developmental disabilities in an array of different opportunities. We serve them in group homes, in their own homes, in their family homes, as well as day programs,” explained Susan Pearson, Executive Director of this Andover, Connecticut-based nonprofit.
Network Inc. was founded in 1991 as its own agency after state-mandated facility closed its doors. As with any new nonprofit organization, there were initial barriers to overcome. Now, the agency has grown so much that there’s a waiting list for their day programs.
This is welcome news for Pearson, as her passion runs deep for the people that they serve.
“The people who don't speak, they tell you worlds of things with their eyes, and their gestures, and their looks. That's why I have a lot of compassion for the field and I have a lot of respect for the people who work in this field. It’s a difficult job but I absolutely love it,” she regaled.
So, how did they come to be a bustling organization, with a staff of over 250, taking on new projects every day? They took a chance. Here’s why you should too – and stop letting your fears outweigh your potential.
Find opportunity in the unexpected.
“When I was a child, and we would drive by the community school I'd say to my mother, ‘I wanna go play on that playground’, and she'd say, ‘Oh no, that's for special people’. And I always wondered, what ... how come I'm not special?” Pearson remembered.
Pearson’s childhood innocence blossomed into a beautiful career of helping those same people playing on the playground. That unexpected conversation turned into something amazing.
Have you ever had a meeting with a possible business vendor that didn’t go as well as you hoped? What did you take away from that encounter? Frustration of wasted time? Understandable. But maybe with a slight shift of perspective, you could realize that the features the salesperson pitched are actually not what you thought you needed in the first place. You discover something new and unexpected that your business can really benefit from.
If you take a chance on that unexpected encounter or opportunity, great things can come out of it. Plus, if you don’t act on it, you’ll be left wondering what would have happened if you did.
Get creative with your resources.
My grandpa always told me, “do the best with what you’ve got.” As small business owners with tight budgets and a limited pool of resources, you quickly learn how to do just that.
Network Inc. has some incredible staff members. As a nonprofit, those limited resources are even more well, limited. The patience, the passion, and the pure joy their employees get from doing their job is always worth celebrating. However, the organization’s budget doesn’t always allow for extravagant parties or lavish vacations. Pearson did something about it.
“It's really, really difficult and we want to thank everybody all the time as much as we possibly can. Also, when we are able to, we try to give incentives so that at least gets them through the year each year. We have an agency wide picnic every year. We're always trying to figure out a new or better way to thank them and to keep them motivated. This year I was up at the state capitol several times advocating with our provider agency as well as their union agency to get raises and it came through,” she said.
Pearson took a chance by rallying at the capitol and it paid off. She got creative with her resources and made the most out of a difficult situation.
Difficulty makes you grow.
When Network Inc. first opened, they weren’t shy with the types of individuals they took on.
“We’ve been known for taking on some difficult folks and we are very successful with that. They may have been served in 10 other agencies for whatever reason, but we’ve been successful here with them,” Pearson explained.
That success comes from their openness and determination to provide their staff with the proper training. Because of their ability to take great care of any individual that crosses their path, it’s landed them an amazing opportunity to take another agency under their wings. While this growth is a chance to impact more people in the community, it also adds a lot more work to their staffs’ plates. Like Maggie Beglinger – the CFO.
“CFO for a nonprofit is pretty much like a business manager. I manage all aspects of the business in conjunction with the executive director,” she explained.
When asked how she prioritizes everything and excels in time management, she offered, “Sometimes it means long hours. But you set your priorities. You make sure you hit your deadlines and tries to deal with one thing at a time. It doesn’t help to get worried about things.”
Any difficult situation you’re ever faced with, use it as an opportunity to take a chance and grow.
At the end of the day, for Network Inc., it’s all about making the individuals they serve feel like they’re right at home.
“I'm very passionate about everybody knowing that that is their home. And it should be treated just like if it was an individual that you had. I say to people, "If that was your brother, your sister, your mother; how would you want that person treated?". That's how we want the folks treated in that home,” Pearson concluded.